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North Korea’s surprise live broadcast Friday of Hitomi Soga’s kin at Pyongyang airport may constitute another indication that the country is apparently trying to back Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration ahead of Sunday’s House of Councilors election, government officials claimed.

The Korean Central Broadcasting Station distributed images of the repatriated abductee’s three family members to Japanese TV networks, according to an official at Asahi National Broadcasting Co.

TV Asahi hastily set up a special program and continued to air the image live.

“The most desperate supporter of the Koizumi administration at this point may be North Korea,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official involved in Japan-North Korea relations.

“If Koizumi’s party suffers a setback in the Upper House election, prompting him to resign, North Korea apparently fears that negotiations with Japan may have to start from scratch.”

It is widely believed that Japan will offer a considerable amount of economic aid to North Korea if bilateral ties are normalized. When Japan restored diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1965, Tokyo provided an aid lump-sum totaling $500 million.

North Korea’s response has been positive since Koizumi’s second visit to Pyongyang in May. It has also been more cooperative since weekend media surveys showed that Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party is facing an uphill race in Sunday’s election, another ministry official claimed.

On Monday, Pyongyang agreed to allow Soga and her family to be reunited Friday — before the election. It also offered four Red Army Faction fugitives to return to Japan. They were part of a nine-member group that hijacked a Japan Airlines plane to North Korea in 1970.

Commenting on the live broadcast, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said: “I speculate that (the North Korean) side gave thought to Japan.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima told a news conference that the ministry had “no information whatsoever” that the North would carry the live broadcast of Charles Robert Jenkins and his two daughters arriving at Pyongyang airport and getting on the plane.

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